Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colorado's non-transparent and unverifiable election system won't cut it in '12

July 14, 2011                      

Mr. John Hickenlooper, Governor
Ms. Dianne Ray, Auditor
Mr. John Suthers, Attorney General
Mr. Walker Stapleton, Treasurer
Mr. Scott Gessler, Secretary of state
Mr. Scott Doyle, President of Colorado County Clerks Association
Mr. Brandon Shaffer, President of the Senate
Mr. Frank McNulty, Speaker of the House 

Dear Honorable Colorado Officials: 

We see dark clouds gathering over Colorado’s election systems.  Officials are not fulfilling their positions of public trust and are compromising the very foundation of our government – free and open elections. 

Time after time Colorado election officials have refused to produce for public analysis the data needed to detect election error and fraud.  Officials responsible for enforcement ignore, provide cover, explain away, or outright excuse material errors and violations committed by themselves, other officials, and vendors.

Inadvertently sometimes, but other times purposefully, public officials circumvent and weaken election statutes and rules, increase the likelihood of election error and fraud, and make it more and more difficult for the public to verify that the election outcomes are correct.  Also, rulemaking and complaint processing procedures have been established that are self-serving and altogether unfair to the public.

This letter intends to draw your personal attention to Colorado’s defective election systems.  We seek your leadership in setting a high priority agenda to devise and implement immediate and long term remedies.  As a key official you can speak out in behalf of the public and draw attention to the problems.  And you can recruit talent suitable to the task of addressing these problems.

This is urgent.  With the highly contested 2012 election season already underway, it is vital that changes needed to protect the integrity of this election be devised, implemented and enforced.  The stakes are high.  Emotions are high.  There is a risk that a “win whatever it takes attitude” will encourage voter intimidation, vote selling, voter impersonation and other inappropriate activity.

Most of you have successfully navigated the election system so you are likely to be “generally satisfied” with the process.   We, who have studied this system in detail for many years, are “strongly not satisfied”.

We are a multi-partisan group.  We do not collaborate on election contests.  Instead, we collaborate on oversight and improvement of the election process itself. 

We have served as canvass board members, election judges, and poll watchers.  We are highly knowledgeable active participants in: election rulemaking, election lawmaking, best election practices development, election complaint processing, post-election audit, election and open records litigation, and election system certification and testing.  As a group, we have considerable technical and election expertise.

 After more than a decade of work, we have observed a disturbing increase in the likelihood of a major election problem and a simultaneous decrease in the rights of citizens to verify election processes and results.  If enough people do not trust election outcomes, there is no telling what might happen.

Unless current trends are reversed, we anticipate a massive loss of public confidence in election results and government officials.

The upcoming 2012 General Election is expected to be vigorously fought and highly emotional.  Some see this election determining the fate of our nation.  The stakes are exceptionally high.  Requiring your immediate attention are at least the following issues:

1.       Restrictions on private meetings of officials (electronic and/or in-person) when public business is discussed as required by the Colorado Open Meetings law C.R.S. § 24-6-401 & 402.

2.       Disallowing the use of public funds for private meetings, lobbying, and promotion.

3.       Appointment of truly independent (non-conflict of interest) and technically competent bodies to create election rules and to judge election complaints.

4.       Appointment of truly independent (non-conflict of interest) bodies with the technical competence to monitor, report, and enforce government and public compliance with election statutes and rules.

5.       Establish, measure, and enforce compliance with precise, quantifiable standards for all election processes including , but not limited to:

ü  “timely public access to all election records and processes with the exception of the identity of which voter cast which ballot”,

ü  “strict compliance with the “anonymity” intent of Colorado Constitution Article VII, Section 8”,

ü   “enforceable standard for assessing substantial compliance’’,

ü  and, publicly-verifiable voting system certification, canvass, recount, audit, test, identity verification, eligibility verification, ballot control, voter intent, poll watching, open records, and records retention.

When your contestant wins you accept the results.  But what if they lose and you don’t believe it?  
What better remedy than transparent election systems will enable the public to actually verify for themselves that election processes and results are fair and accurate?  And research potential system improvements?

The voters of Colorado desperately need your help.  We must not allow Colorado to be embarrassed in front of the nation by displaying on television our inferior non-transparent and unverifiable election systems. 

Can we count on you to adopt a high priority agenda to devise and implement immediate and long term remedies?  We would like to meet with you to provide details and to discuss potential solutions.

Al Kolwicz
for, Colorado Voter Group

This letter was published in the July 22, 2011 edition of the Colorado Statesman.

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